Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Rejoinder to Hixson on the CJ: Part Three of Three

Note; This concludes a series of three rejoinders, based on three comments, posted by Dr. Elijah Hixson (EH) to my blog article on WM 149.

Now on to Rejoinder, part three of three (EH's comments in blue and my responses in black):

Introduction: Before I begin to respond to EH’s second point below (continuing from his “three main headings of responses”), I need to try to make sense of what I think EH is trying to do here. In this second point EH seems to be giving advice to me and other TR advocates to explain to us the circumstances under which our defense of the TR would be acceptable to him. It gets a little convoluted, so I’ll try to break it down as best I can, bit by bit, as we proceed:

(3/3) 2. Specifically: “Because this likely does not fit with EH’s assumption that defense of the TR can only be perceived as a variety of KJV-O.” Well, that is not my assumption, but I would say that’s one way it could be defended.

JTR: Again, EH begins by quoting me. He then denies that he assumes that defense of the TR is necessarily KJVO (“Well, that is not my assumption…”). As previously noted, can I assume then that this means EH would disagree with those like Mark Ward who insist any defense of the TR must necessarily be considered a variety of KJVO? If so, great.

Next, EH apparently says, however, that holding to KJVO would, in fact, be one way that the TR could be reasonably defended: “…but I would say that’s one way it could be defended.” Really? For the record, I do not believe the TR can be defended from a true KJVO position, since it would contradict WCF/SD/2LBCF 1:8 in that it would deny that the Scriptures are only immediately inspired in the original Hebrew and Greek.

(1) If there was something ‘special’ about the Reformation, then the CJ becomes more defensible. However, too little continuity with what came before the Reformation is a move in the direction of KJVO, where something special happened at around the time of the Reformation. ‘Kept pure in all ages’ only works if it is consistent with ‘all ages’, so the bits before the Reformation are every bit as important to that claim as the bits after the Reformation. However, if you lay that aside and place special emphasis on the Reformation, you avoid that problem.

JTR: Now, under this second point on his “three main headings of response” (I said it would get convoluted!) EH begins to list four options/conditions under which, in his opinion, the TR (and thus the CJ) could be reasonably defended.

This first point is that the CJ could be hypothetically "more defensible” if it were proven that there was something “special” about the Reformation.

At this point I am beginning to wonder if I really need to argue with and prove to a fellow Protestant evangelical (of some stripe) that there was something providentially “special” about the Reformation.

EH next says that if one sees “too little continuity” between pre-Reformation and Reformation Christianity then the only way he can defend the TR is via some variety of KJVO. He then instructs us that the Westminster phrase “kept pure in all ages” “only works” if, indeed, it means “all ages” (every historical era?). If we hold to discontinuity with previous eras and that the Reformation era was truly "special", then our view is not tenable.

It’s really hard to know where to begin in responding to this. Here are a few tries:

First, as a confessional Protestant, I cannot lay aside my belief that the Reformation was a time of special providential importance.

Second, to insist on the special importance of the Reformation is not, in any way, to deny all continuity with previous Christian tradition. Take, for example, the Protestant orthodox articulation of the doctrine of God and of Christ in the WCF/SD/2LBCF. With respect to theology, it reflects the classical orthodox affirmation of the Trinity, the simplicity, and the immutability of God, etc. With respect to Christology, it reflects the classic creedal and Chalcedonian view of Christ as one person, with two natures, true God and true man. In other respects, however, there is, of course, discontinuity between the confession and some strands of pre-Reformation Christianity. The Reformation saw, for example, the retrieval of the apostolic doctrine of justification, that doctrine on which the church either stands or falls. It was a watershed, in particular, for the confessional definition of the doctrine of Scripture, including the canon of Scripture, even provoking Rome at Trent to articulate her own counter-Reformation doctrine of Scripture (wrongly affirming the books of the Apocrypha as part of the OT canon and making the Latin Vulgate, not the Hebrew and Greek originals, the standard for faith and practice).

I find the argument here to be particularly curious with respect to the CJ. Which shows greater continuity with the Christian tradition: the reception of the CJ or the rejection of it? I’ve already pointed out the star-studded list of Christian theologians in the pre-Reformation era who affirmed it (from Bernard of Clairvaux to Thomas Aquinas). And it was affirmed by the Protestant orthodox too. Clearly, it is those who reject the CJ who are denying proper continuity between the pre-Reformation and Reformation churches.

Third, “kept pure in all ages” does not mean that there was access to the true text ubiquitously or universally, but it does mean that the true text was always kept pure by God’s own “singular care and providence” in all ages, including during the momentous age of the printing press, the Reformation, the production of printed texts, and the multiplication of Protestant translations, when wide access and consensus was achieved. It certainly does not mean preserved in the mass of extant mss. until scholars in the nineteenth century could began to attempt to put the puzzle pieces together again. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but please read Muller and Milne to grasp what “kept pure in all ages” meant to the Protestant orthodox, rather than attempting to impose an alien definition on a confessional phrase.

Fourth, I’m really at a loss as to how one can suggest if we maintain there was discontinuity between the pre-Reformaton and Reformation eras, and we maintain that "something special" happened at the Reformation, then we “move in the direction of KJVO.” For one thing such a statement is simply a historical anachronism, given that the intellectual, theological, and spiritual basis for defense of the traditional text came long before the KJV was ever printed.

Conclusion: Option one rejected.

(2) Another way the CJ becomes defensible for TR advocates is if you admit that the TR has errors but as it is especially blessed by God through its use in the Reformation, it is a trustworthy text that could be treated as if it were infallible even if it is not in actuality. I’ve seen one of the more open TR advocates admit something like this before.

JTR: EH next “generously” provides a second way in which we might possibly make the TR position acceptable in his sight. According to EH, we could possibly do the following: first, admit the TR has errors; second, treat it as infallible “even if it is not in actuality.”

This calls to mind how a secular skeptic might possibly speak to a traditional Christian. He might say, You know I could accept your Christian view of the Bible if you would only do two things: first, admit that your Bible is not infallible; second, feel free to “pretend” as if it actually is, even though it isn’t. Would any Christian worth his salt accept such a deal? Hardly.

Here is why we cannot accept this option: We believe that the TR is the true text of the NT. Please see Richard Brash’s work on the Protestant orthodox affirmation of the “practical univocity” between the autographa and the apographa (represented in the printed editions of the TR). If we were to say that there were errors in the TR this would be tantamount to saying there are errors in the Bible. It would deny the authority, inspiration, and preservation of Scripture. We do not want merely to act “as if” we have the Word of God in our hands. We know we have the Word of God in our hands.

Conclusion: Option 2 rejected.

There are two other ways to defend the CJ though. (3) One is simply to admit that all of the Greek manuscript evidence is against the TR but buckle down on the fact that it’s not an evidence-based position. I think this is what you try to do, and most TR advocates back into this corner, but not before misusing evidence. That runs dangerously close to ‘divers weights and divers measures’ (Prov. 20:10). Remember, it was you who appealed to GA 177 as evidential support for the CJ, but now I am wrong for critiquing your use of evidence? The better way would be just to admit that in many cases the evidence is against the TR and not to try to misuse the evidence to support it when it doesn’t.

JTR: EH next provides us with a third option for making the TR position acceptable in his sight. Yet, he presents this third option, but then, just as quickly as he offers it, he rejects it himself. Did I say that this gets convoluted?

Let’s first look at EH’s third option, before he rejects it. He says one might “admit that all the Greek evidence is against the TR but buckle down on the fact that it is not an evidence-based position.” He says he thinks this is what I (JTR) try to do, and it results in “misusing evidence” (bringing up again my 2010 blog article on ms. 177 as exhibit “A” for my crime of misuse of evidence!).

Again, no sooner is this option offered, but it is rejected, as EH instructs: “The better way would be just to admit that in many cases the evidence is against the TR and not to try to misuse the evidence to support it when it doesn’t.”

How do we begin to respond to this? I think the main problem is that EH cannot seem to grasp that there might be another way to approach the text of Scripture, other than using the “reconstruction method.” The confessional TR position does not, in any way, shape, or form “admit that all the Greek evidence is against the TR.” In many cases, as with the traditional ending of Mark, the extant external ms. evidence clearly favors the TR. At the same time, the TR position also readily acknowledges that some TR readings do not have strong or available extant external support. The main point, however, is that we hold that the best text is not the hypothetical approximation offered in the modern critical text, based on its survey of the extant ms. evidence, but the providentially preserved text of the Protestant church.

I notice that EH does not point to any specific examples of “misuse” of evidence, other than my brief mention in a 2010 blog article of Dan Wallace’s discovery of the CJ in the margin of ms. 177 as another witness in support of the tenacity of the CJ in the Christian tradition. See part one of this rejoinder for a response to this charge.

Conclusion: Option 3 rejected.

(4) The final way to defend the CJ is to do actual work in evidence to show why my conclusions are wrong and yours are correct. This has never been done to my knowledge, which brings be to point 3:

JTR: The final option seems more like an ultimatum. We can defend the TR, if we do “actual work in evidence.” Presumably this means we begin to make use of reasoned eclectic modern text criticism. Interesting. Which method of reasoned eclecticism would EH suggest I use to do “actual work in evidence”? Should I make use of the CBGM? Or should I adopt the method used by those who made the THGNT? What about thoroughgoing eclecticism? Is that still an option?

With all due respect, I have taken a look at modern text criticism, and it looks like an Enlightenment influenced dead end to me. Haven’t the cutting-edge scholars in the field themselves suggested that the finding the “original text” is only an elusive chimera?

No thanks, I’ll stick with the confessional text position, even if this does not measure up as “actual work” in the eyes of reasoned eclectics.

Conclusion: Option 4 rejected.

3. On 429mg, you neglected to mention my observation (at least in the written form here; my apologies if you discuss it in the audio version) for why it was copied from Erasmus’ third edition when you simply dismissed my conclusion as circular reasoning. Perhaps this was a simple mistake on your part.

JTR: I think this would have been a point where EH would indeed have profited from listening to the audio, before assessing my critique. I plainly stated in the audio that, as tempting as it might be, I would not have time to cover in detail each of EH’s observations on these mss., but I would focus on what he said was his special interest: the supposed significance of the RC provenance for some of these mss. and how this contradicted defense of the TR.

I claimed that the CJ was copied from Erasmus’ third edition in 429mg because the annotator of 429 copied many notes and in some cases explicitly wrote Erasmus as a source. Instead of concealing that fact (for which I even put up a picture) and dismissing my conclusion as circular reasoning, the better way would be to work through 429 (or at least in a large enough section to be representative), look at the annotations that do explicitly list Erasmus as a source and compare those to the ones that do not list Erasmus as a source, paying attention to how closely they do/do not align with Erasmus’ text and making observations there. Simply dismissing an argument is not the same as working through the same data and giving a better argument.

JTR response: EH’s discussion of 429 in the original blog article was brief (210 words) and dependent, by his acknowledgement, on Wachtel. EH now takes exception to my even briefer critique of his analysis (79 words).

Despite the brevity of EH’s analysis, he offers some very definitive conclusions. The article begins, “GA 429 is itself 14th century, but the marginal addition of the CJ happened after 1522. We know that because it was copied from Erasmus’ third edition.” It concludes, “429marg is not a witness to a pre-Erasmian CJ.” I am wondering how Bruce Metzger, the master of nuance, might have worded these things. My guess is he would have reached similar conclusions but seeded in some humble tentativeness. I could see him writing: “…but the marginal addition of the CJ most likely happened after 1522.” And, “429marg is very likely not a witness to a pre-Erasmian CJ.”

This relates to the primary thrust I was making in my very brief response, when I asked the following series of questions: “Would not even EH concede that this conclusion must remain speculative? Can the CJ addition to 429 be conclusively proven to have been copied from Erasmus’s third edition? What if the 429marg and the third edition of Erasmus were both dependent on a common source of unknown date?” After all, EH notes that this ms. includes some notes where explicit mention is made of Erasmus, but there is no note that explicitly says the marginal addition was taken from Erasmus, right? So, EH’s conclusion is possible, maybe even probable, but it cannot be definitively proven, right?

What seems to have hit a more tender spot, was my question, “Does this risk circular reasoning?” I also raised this question in relation to the analysis of ms. 918. Is it inappropriate to ask whether or not one might have an assumption or presupposition, like the possibility that the CJ was added to older manuscripts from printed editions of the TR, which might influence his conclusion and preclude the entertainment of other possibilities for explaining the phenomenon?

I do not believe I was “simply dismissing” EH’s argument, but I was asking reasonable questions about it.

This reaction called to mind a comment made by Robert W. Yarbrough in his book Clash of Visions, in which he notes how “the elitist guild consensus” can function “like the papal magisterium,” adding, “Against these truths no warranted objections are possible” (37).

Interestingly enough, EH also suggests that I should not have asked these questions until after “working through the data and giving a better argument.” But let’s face it, these were sections of blog articles for both of us (of 210 and 79 words respectively), and neither of us have done extensive study of this ms.

If the TR position is not evidence-based, then why dismiss my conclusions like this while ignoring my main observation and not giving an alternative assessment of the data?

JTR: Just because the TR position does not rely on reconstruction should not mean that we cannot make observations on the current external evidence or someone’s assessment of it, should it? After all, I was reviewing EH’s article on these mss. I was not making or defending an evidence-based argument in favor of the CJ. I hardly dismissed EH’s argument (a link was given for anyone to read his article for himself), but I did offer at least the possibility of an alternative explanation, based on the summary presented.

I’m sure you can see how many people might think evidence matters more to TR advocates than they claim once the evidence becomes inconvenient for their position.

JTR: Again, though the TR position does not depend on the “reconstruction” method, this does not mean we cannot make observations about extant evidence.

Since the TR position is a ‘grand unified theory’ under which every manuscript falls, you should excel at analysing the data.

JTR: Again, this “grand unified theory” idea is EH’s own idea, not one promoted by any TR advocate of whom I am aware.

The same could be said of the other manuscripts in which I suggested a printed text as a source. You did the same with 177—you left out the fact that the priest to whom I linked the CJ actually signed and dated the manuscript (at least in the written form). That’s a powerful observation that makes it much more difficult to dismiss my conclusions.

JTR: This is what I wrote in my review: “He [EH] traces the marginal insertion of the CJ to a ‘Roman Catholic priest in Munich.’” So, did I “leave out” this information? No, of course, I didn’t. What I did was question the significance or relevance of the fact that 177 had been owned by a RC priest, with respect to evaluating its acceptance by Protestants as a genuine part of Scripture.

Thank you again though for taking my post seriously enough to write a response.


JTR: You are most welcomed. Thank you for your responses. Of course, there were a number of other responses given in my review and questions raised that your comments did not address, including the following:

·       The TR defense of the CJ does not depend on extant external evidence. TR defenders held to the TR in 1971, 1975 when Metzger could list only 4 late Greek witnesses in its favor, and though we are now happy to have 10-11 such witnesses (depending on how you count 635 marg), we never believed that we were dependent on these witnesses to confirm our defense of the TR. So, the “new” mss. surveyed by EH are nice to know about, but TR advocates are convinced of the authenticity of the CJ with or without them.

·       There is very little early evidence for the Catholic epistles overall and for I John, in particular (just two papyri). Does this not speak to the limits of certainty with the reconstruction method?

·       TR advocates recognize that though the CJ may support the doctrine of the Trinity, and it is essential to the Scriptures as as a whole, there are other passages that also support the doctrine of the Trinity, and that the doctrine is not dependent on this text alone.

·       The CJ was known, accepted, and used by the doctors of the church long before the Reformation (again from Bernard of Clairvaux to Thomas Aquinas). Is it not the rejection of the CJ that risks discontinuity with pre-Reformation Christianity?

·       The attempt to show “RC provenance” for some extant mss. which include the CJ in some form (by EH’s own emphasis, a key interest of his study), does not, in fact, invalidate TR defense of the CJ, nor does it negate classical Protestant acceptance of it.

·       Other specific brief questions related to specific manuscripts were not addressed (e.g., regarding the orthodox provenance of 2318; regarding how to understand Coxe’s note on 221).



Steven Avery said...

Thank you Jeffrey, for your fine responses.

Allow me to comment on the evidence issue.

Jeffrey Riddle
"the TR position also readily acknowledges that some TR readings do not have strong or available extant external support. ... TR defense of the CJ does not depend on extant external evidence"

In terms of the heavenly witnesses, there is strong external support in Latin and in ECW (early church writers) as well as an incredible array of grammatical, internal, harmony, stylistic and parallelism evidences.

Thus, the sentences above need a double adjective to be accurate:


"extant Greek manuscript external evidence"

In Greek, the Disputation of Athanasius with Arius at Nicea is a definite evidence, likely written in the 4th-5th century. The Synopsis of Scripture is another Greek evidence.

Beyond that, there are evidences that point directly to early Greek manuscripts.

Jerome's Prologue to the Canonical Epistles specifically discusses the tendency to drop the verse! And Jerome surely had access to Greek and Latin mss. from c. 200 AD, using Greek mss. to tweak and improve the Latin text.

Eusebius ad Marcellum gives us an insight consistent to this as well, showing the doctrinal discomfit with "three are one". This helps confirm the theory of Frederick Nolan (1784-1954) that the Constantine 50 mss. deliberately omitted the verse, by the influence of Eusebius.

Similarly, Cyprian and Tertullian utilized the verse, and had background in Latin and Greek, there was no Chinese wall separating the languages.

One great fallacy that permeates the approach of Elijah Hixson is that somehow extant late Greek mss. are "the evidence". Generally those mss. simply represent the restoration of the verse in the Greek line that began in the Lateran Council of 1215 AD. (There was a similar restoration in Armenian around the time of the Synod of Sis.) These Greek mss. are a very minor part of the heavenly witnesses authenticity evidence.

And learned defenders like John Mill (1645-1707) and the Lutheran Franz August Otto Pieper (1852-1931) were most happy to accept full authenticity based on what is proven by the Cyprian, and Tertullian, references. Without concern for a single extant Greek ms! Similar can be said with other super-evidences, like the Vulgate Prologue, which so flummoxed Erasmus. And the Council of Carthage of 484 with the appeal to the verse in the Bibles of hundreds of orthodox Christians from a wide Meditteranean region, and the African Bibles of the Vandals under Huneric.

I've taken up more ink than expected, so I will pass for now on details on the grammatical, harmony, stylistic and other internal evidences. Simply mentioning that two grammatical evidences strongly support a Greek original translated to Latin, with the emphasis on the solecism that is alluded to by Erasmus "torquebit grammaticos" and described wonderfully by the world-class Greek scholar Eugenius Bulgaris (1718-1805).

Nor can I go into comparing the simplicity of theories of omission (homoeoteleuton and doctrinal preferences) with the convoluted mish-a-mosh of the various competing and alternate interpolation theories.

Thanks for your patience!

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...

Thanks for this comment and others in this series Steven. I hear you on defense of the CJ based on the evidence. I am not saying it has no defense whatsoever based on evidence. Good points made.


Steven Avery said...

Thanks, Jeffrey.

It is a bit annoying that Elijah Hixson built his argumentation on the totally false idea that the the extant late Greek manuscripts are “the evidence”.

And then you are supposed to “jump” .. “how high” .. and give counterpoint to his paper (which was nice, and appreciated, , but gave nothing new, David Robert Palmer had the same information documented years ago, albeit without the pics.)

Elijah’s whole extant Greek ms. challenge to you was based on his own lack of knowledge of the heavenly witnesses history and evidences. Thus, you have no obligation to play into his scholastic void :). Elijah should first come up to speed.

And much more can be added to the quick outline above, including the Origen Psalm scholion, and the details from Eugenius Bulgaris.

That said, your blog posts are excellent/


Btw, Elijah insists that Cyprian was only giving a “Trinitarian exegesis” of the spirit, water and blood. Against Cyprian’s well-known accuracy in quoting scripture.. Elijah stops there, without explaining how and when and by whom that was expanded to a beautiful Johannine-style extra verse, to the margin , to the text, heavenly and earthly elements added, and even the Greek solecism fixed when back-translated! Amazing.

To other issues, like Jerome’s Vulgate Prologue, and the 484 Council of Carthage, afaik Elijah has said absolutely nothing.

Thanks for the posting, explaining spot!


Steven Avery
Dutchess County, NY

Peter Lindstrom said...

Also, wasn't 1st John 5:7 in the Bibles actually used in churches prior to the Reformation? The Old Itala Bibles of the Waldenses in the west, and the Greek Bibles of the Greek Church in the east (of Europe)?

Steven Avery said...

Definitely in Western churches, and Bibles like the Tepl (Teplensis). They have an Old Latin lineage, and join the Vulgate in having the verse. Thus, various German Bibles had the verse.

The idea of an independent Vaudois or Waldenses transmission from the 2nd century is quite dubious. That was pushed by Benjamin Wilkinson (1872-1968), whose textual scholarship was spotty. He tried to use the interesting material from Frederick Nolan (1784-1864), and twisted it to match what Wilkinson felt was good Adventist theory about the Waldenses. This still affects some King James Bible supporter writings, through David Otis Fuller (1903-1988), which talks of two lines, or streams, or trees. And tries to put the Old Latin on the good line and the Vulgate on the bad line. An incorrect theory.

There was a degree of restoration on the Greek side starting from the Lateran Council of 1215 AD, however most mss. were simply copied without the verse. Codex Ottobonianus is an extant exception. The church writers Manuel Calecas and Joseph Bryennius utilized the verse in their Greek writing in the pre-Reformation days, c. 1400.

And Erasmus would be familiar with the dozens of Latin scholars writing about the verse, including the Schoolmen. After the early 1400s there was much more dual language scholarship, Latin and Greek.

The Orthodox scholars generally accepted the Reformation Bible correction, which you can see in the 1643 Orthodox Confession of Faith written by Peter Mogilas.

Hope that helps on the 2-part question.

Mark said...

(b) For another thing, we must take heed to our doctrine about the inspiration and
authority of the Holy Scriptures. Let us boldly maintain, in the face of all gainsayers, that
the whole of the Bible is given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, - that all is inspired
completely, not one part more than another, - and that there is an entire gulf between the
Word of God and any other book in the world. We need not be afraid of difficulties in
the way of the doctrine of plenary inspiration. There may be many things about it far too
high for us to comprehend: it is a miracle, and all miracles are necessarily mysterious.
But if we are not to believe anything until we can entirely explain it, there are very few
things indeed that we shall believe. We need not be afraid of all the assaults that
criticism brings to bear upon the Bible. From the days of the apostles the Word of the
Lord has been incessantly ‘tried,’ and has never failed to come forth as gold, uninjured,
and unsullied. We need not be afraid of the discoveries of science. Astronomers may
sweep the heavens with telescopes, and geologists may dig down into the heart of the
earth, and never shake the authority of the Bible: ‘The voice of God, and the work of
God’s hands never will be found to contradict one another.’ We need not be afraid of the
researches of travelers. They will never discover anything that contradicts God’s Bible. I
believe that if a Layard were to go over all the earth and dig up a hundred buried
Ninevehs, there would not be found a single inscription which would contradict a single
fact in the Word of God.
Furthermore, we must boldly maintain that this Word of God is the only rule of faith
and of practice, - that whatsoever is not written in it cannot be required of any man as
needful to salvation, - and that however plausibly new doctrines may be defended, if they
be not in the Word of God they cannot be worth our attention. It matters nothing who
says a thing, whether he be bishop, archdeacon, dean or presbyter. It matters nothing that
the thing is well said, eloquently, attractively, forcibly, and in such a way as to turn the
laugh against you. We are not to believe it except it be proved to us by Holy Scripture.
Last, but not least, we must use the Bible as if we believed it was given by
inspiration. We must use it with reverence, and read it with all the tenderness with which
we would read the words of an absent father. We must not expect to find in a book
inspired by the Spirit of God no mysteries. We must rather remember that in nature there
are many things we cannot understand; and that as it is in the book of nature, so it will
always be in the book of Revelation. We should draw near to the Word of God in that
spirit of piety recommended by Lord Bacon many years ago. ‘Remember,’ he says,
speaking of the book of nature, ‘that man is not the master of that book, but the
interpreter of that book.’ And as we deal with the book of nature, so we must deal with
the Book of God. We must draw near to it, not to teach, but to learn, - not like the master
of it but like a humble scholar, seeking to understand it.

Warning to the churches - Pharisees and Saducees by JC Ryle - find the link on this page - https://www.monergism.com/search?f%5B0%5D=author%3A35296&page=1